Couche-Tard, Eden lobbying BC government for retail cannabis

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Courtesy of Lift Magazine

Although no official cannabis policy from BC has been announced yet, several business and industry interests have already begun lobbying the new NDP government on the subject of legalization and issues like retail sales and taxes on medical cannabis.

Among them, the Quebec-based convenience store chain Couche-Tard engaged consultants David Gourlay and Yan Plante, who submitted a registration with the BC Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists on Sept 12 to discuss cannabis retail distribution in the province, with the intention of meeting with public officials to discuss “legislation, a bill or regulation.”

Gourlay has done lobbying work for other cannabis companies like Aphria and Magna Terra Health Services in Ontario.

Among the public officials Couche-Tard will be targeting in BC are Premier John Horgan, Minister of Health Adrian Dix, BC Attorney General David Eby, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth, and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson.

Earlier this year, Couche-Tard said they were interested in selling cannabis in Quebec, but the province has so far indicated that they are looking at a provincially-run monopoly system. The founder of Couche-Tarde says he was insulted by Quebec’s approach. 

Ontario and New Brunswick have also already announced a crown corporation for distribution and sales similar to how the provinces manage alcohol. Western provinces like BC and Alberta, which have less restrictive approaches to alcohol sales, are thought to offer the same potential for cannabis, although no concrete policies have been released from either province yet.

Premier Horgan recently said that BC will be ready for legalization by next summer and made vague references to dispensaries in cities like Vancouver or Victoria that seem to imply an openness for more than just a crown corporation retail model.

“The City of Vancouver [and] City of Victoria,” said Horgan in a recent interview, “two that I know well, there’s been just an explosion of private dispensaries on almost every street corner in some cases. That’s not going to work. The market will figure some of that stuff out, but we want to make sure there’s a regime in place that protects the public and also is compliant with where the federal government wants to go.”

Another party interested in the subject of retail cannabis in BC, Eden Medicinal Society, have engaged former Senior Campaign Advisor to the NDP in the 2015 election, Brad Lavigne.

Eden has two locations in Vancouver, one with a business license from the city and another with a development permit under the city’s Medical Marijuana Related Use licensing program (MMRU). Eden says they are “seeking to work with the government to establish a regulatory framework for provincial licensing and taxation of privately-owned adult-use cannabis retail businesses.” Eden also has two locations currently listed in Toronto.

Like Couche-Tard, Eden is looking to discuss the issue with various provincial Ministers and the Premier’s office. The dispensary chain is also looking to reach out to all 85 MLA offices in BC.

Another company, Merrco, an online payment processing

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